Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Climate alarmism versus integrity at National Academies of Science

National Academies of Science should speak out against climate alarmism, not support it. This is the major message in a recent letter from Professor Guus Berkhout, president of CLINTEL, to the new head of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. The integrity of science is at stake.

This letter is a model for how all alarmist National Academies should be addressed. For example, the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is painfully alarmist. Even worse, NAS has been joined in promoting alarmism by its two siblings, the National Academies of Engineering and Medicine. The fact that these Academies have become a servant of supranational political organizations such as IPCC shows how serious the crisis in climate science really is.

The Netherlands Academy is called KNAW, from its Dutch name. KNAW was established in 1808 as an advisory body to the government, a task it still performs today. NAS was established by Congress in 1868. Both NAS and KNAW derive their authority from their high profile members, rigorously selected top scientists from a large range of scientific fields. Professor Berkhout is a member of KNAW.

The letter is addressed to Prof. Dr. Ineke Sluiter, President of KNAW. It begins with a clear statement of the issue:

“I am addressing you in your capacity as the new President of the KNAW because the climate issue is escalating. The IPCC and the associated activist climate movement have become highly politicised. Sceptical scientists are being silenced. As an IPCC expert reviewer, I critically looked at the latest draft climate report. My conclusion is that there is little evidence of any intent to discover the objective scientific truth.

Though IPCC’s doomsday scenarios are far from representative of reality, they play an important role in government climate policy. Only courageous individuals dare to point out that the predictions of the IPCC’s computer models of climate have not come to pass, in that contemporary measurements contradict them. IPCC’s confidence in its own models does not match the real-world outturn. In the past, scientific societies such as ours would have sounded the alarm. (Emphasis added.)

In your interview with Elsevier Weekblad (6 June 2020) you say: “Dutch science should be proud of itself” and, a little later, “A hallmark of high-quality research must be a wide variety of viewpoints – fewer dogmas, more viewpoints.” I agree. Unfortunately, your observations do not seem to apply to climate science. There, diversity is suppressed and the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) dogma is promoted. That is why I am writing to you.”

After discussing the well known problems with the IPCC science, Professor Berkhout states his case:

“Why do scientific institutions not warn society that all these climate-change doom and gloom scenarios have little or no scientific justification? I know that there are many scientists around the world who doubt or disagree with the IPCC’s claims. I also know from my own experience and from correspondence with colleagues that there is much pressure on researchers to conform to what we are told is the climate “consensus”. But the history of science shows time and again that new insights do not come from followers but from critical thinkers. For valid new insights, measurements trump models.

The KNAW, as the guardian of science, must surely take action now. The more governments invest in expensive climate policies in the name of climate science, the more difficult it becomes to point out that climate science in its present state falls a long way short of providing any justification for such policies. There are more and more indications that things are not right. If the scientific community waits for the dam to burst, the damage to science will be enormous. Society will then rightly ask itself the question: why were the Academies of Sciences silent? Surely there has been enough warning from scientific critics of the official position?

The KNAW must, of course, stay clear of politics and focus on excellence in finding the truth. But I repeat that the KNAW is also the guardian of science. In climate policy in particular, science is abused on a global scale. How can one plausibly state, on such a highly complex subject as the Earth’s climate, that “the science is settled”? That is not excellence: it is stupidity.”

There is a lot more and the letter ends with a specific proposal from CLINTEL:

“I propose to organise an international open blue-team/red-team meeting together with the KNAW, in which both teams can present their scientific views†. These discussions could be the start of a new era in climate science. Audiatur et altera pars.”

The US National Academy of Sciences is a lot worse than KNAW in this regard. Not only does NAS not speak out against the anti-scientific climate movement, it openly supports it. I know there are skeptical members of NAS, probably many. They need to speak out, just as Professor Berkhout has done.

Nothing less than the integrity of science is at stake. Failure to acknowledge the scientific climate change debate is making science look like a political tool. This can only turn out badly for science.


A new politics: “Greencons” are a new political alliance for an uncertain age

THE FORMATION of Ireland’s new government on June 27th, after 140 days of haggling, brings to office a novel coalition. Not only will the old rivals of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael ally for the first time since the Irish civil war roughly a century ago, but the two parties of the centre-right will join forces with the 29-year-old Green Party. Under the new taoiseach, Micheal Martin, the coalition is promising a green new deal that would slash carbon emissions by 7% a year. Though still rare, once-improbable alliances of climate activists and conservatives are becoming increasingly fashionable in Europe. The covid-19 pandemic could well foster more such coalitions.

“Greencon” alliances are for now marriages of convenience, born of the fragmentation of European politics that is forcing parties of all stripes to contemplate new partnerships. There are areas on which greens and conservatives are unlikely ever to agree, notably defence and foreign policy. Nonetheless both sides have done a lot of evolving in recent years. And the pandemic is painting the political landscape an ever deeper shade of green, which politicians of the centre-right are as eager to exploit.

Traditionally, greens have been happier with partners to the left of centre. In Germany they joined a “red-green” government led by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) between 1998 and 2005. But in Germany and elsewhere, the greens have overtaken the old centre-left as the appeal of old-style socialism has faded and that of environmentalism has bloomed. Greens might once have been cranky idealists but have become eager to exercise power and accept the inevitable compromises that come with it.

Austria is the prime example of nascent green-conservative alliances. Since January, after months of negotiations following an inconclusive election, the country has been governed by a distinctly odd couple. The chancellor, Sebastian Kurz is the man who shifted the Austrian People’s Party from its christian-democratic centrism towards the populist right. He is a sharp-suited, unfeasibly well-groomed 33-year-old. His deputy, the crumpled Werner Kogler, leader of the Green Party, 25 years Mr Kurz’s senior, is never knowingly caught wearing a tie.

In this expedient alliance, Mr Kurz has been pursuing hardline anti-immigration policies, while Leonore Gewessler, the Greens’ “super minister” (specifically, “Minister of Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology”) is pursuing one of Europe’s most ambitious climate-change programmes, seeking to turn Austria carbon neutral by 2040. Mr Kurz and Mr Kogler have co-operated well on controlling the spread of the coronavirus. Austria’s infection has been relatively low.

Having won 14% of the vote in September’s election, the Greens did well enough to make themselves kingmakers. In Ireland in February, their counterparts did much the same thing, taking 12 out of 160 seats in the Dáil. Though divided, the Greens ushered Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael into office—and thereby excluded the left-wing nationalists of Sinn Fein (the political wing of the Irish Republican Army that bloodied Northern Ireland for more than three decades). Their Greens’ leader, Eamon Ryan, a former cycling-shop owner who served in government in 2007-08, is minister for climate action, communications networks and transport

Austria and Ireland are minnows compared with Germany, where the most important green-conservative coalition may emerge. Ahead of the federal election next year, opinion polls place the Greens second to Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Last June, a poll briefly put the Greens ahead of the CDU, which has since drawn ahead. There is every possibility of a “black-green” coalition government.

Germany, moreover, is the place where a meaningful green-conservative ideology may yet take root. In 2011, in response to the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, Mrs Merkel ordered the closure of the country’s nuclear power stations—in effect conceding the Greens’ longest-standing demand, albeit at the cost of increased emissions from coal-fired stations. The Greens and the CDU share power at a state level; six Länder are ruled by coalitions containing the CDU and the Greens, of which two are straight black-green alliances. Robert Habeck, the Greens’ co-leader, who hails from the “realo” (realist) wing, says he would be perfectly happy to share power with the CDU in the federal government.

Importantly for any compromise with conservatives, fewer greens now argue that all economic growth is bad in itself, as long as it is sustainable. Many of the younger generation, reared in the more free-market economic climate of the post-cold-war era, are more open to private-sector solutions to climate change.

As greens have become more pragmatic, many conservatives fear greenery less than they used to. Michael Gove, the foremost green thinker in Britain’s conservative government, has surprised even hardcore activists with his enthusiasm for shifting enormous subsidies away from the mere ownership of land towards rewarding landowners for environmental stewardship, treating the countryside as a public good in a new frontline in the battle against climate change. Mark Littlewood of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a British free-market think-tank, says there is no practical reason why British Conservatives should not support a carbon tax. However, he warns that Conservatives have to be “reassured that greenery is not a Trojan horse for more socialist controls. They have to know that the end point is just an attempt to decarbonise the economy, nothing more.” Fundamentally, as one British government adviser puts it, greenery can be a right-wing issue “because it’s about conservation”. Conservatives are traditionally stewards of the countryside, whereas left-wing parties have usually been based in urban, industrial areas. Thus French conservatives regard la France profonde of small villages and agriculture as the romantic embodiment of national values.

Sara Hobolt, a professor of politics at the London School of Economics, argues that conservative parties across Europe are much more socially liberal than they used to be. This makes them more comfortable working with the former hippies and anarchists who pepper green parties.

The pandemic has served to highlight the reality of disasters long talked about, and long ignored. And the need to offset the economic damage of the pandemic has pushed centre-right governments to resort to the tools of big government to marshall medical resources, support economies and save millions of jobs. Their huge bail-outs have often carried green labels.

The French and British governments, as well as the populist Italian one, have all promised more money to make it safer and easier to walk and cycle in cities. In exchange for handing over billions of euros to bail out France’s car and aviation industries, President Emmanuel Macron has been setting targets for them to speed up electrification and cut emissions respectively. At the centre of the European Union’s eye-wateringly expensive post-covid recovery programme is the European Green Deal, which aims to cut emissions by 50%-55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

For now, greencon alliances are likely to remain confined to northern Europe. Green parties barely feature in southern and eastern Europe. Many other parts of the rich world are more closely wedded to fossil fuels. Australia, for instance, is the world’s biggest exporter of coal, selling $46bn-worth of the dirty black stuff in 2019. Its conservative coalition government was notoriously reluctant to link the terrible bushfires earlier this year to global warming. But public opinion is changing. The share of Australians who think climate change is a “serious and pressing” problem has increased from about 50% to 60% in the past four years. In a new poll, three of the top five threats to the country’s “vital interests” were related to the environment. In May the government issued a road-map towards reducing Australia’s carbon emissions, with an emphasis on replacing coal with gas.

In Canada, too, conservatives have been equally in thrall to resource interests, especially in the oil-producing western provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. But they have been forced to become more green to try to make up electoral ground conceded to Justin Trudeau. In America, meanwhile, the Republican Party and the coal-loving President Donald Trump may seem impervious to the greening of conservative politics. Yet, perhaps oddly, America’s renewable-energy boom has been strongest in Republican-controlled states like Texas (which also produces lots of oil).

Greencon politics is still in its infancy. It may never reach adulthood. Electorates may reject its disparate policies as opportunistic. But they may welcome it as a feature of modern politics that upholds campaign promises and gets things done. Its “oil and vinegar” approach could make for effective governing. It is a 21st-century fusion of value-driven politics, not contradictory so much as incoherent: vaunting the nation at the same time as valuing the Earth. The pandemic has reinforced this strange mix, forcing many politicians to be more pragmatic than they might like. Handy skills for a new kind of politics


Linking Climate Change To Floods Not Supported By Science

Nobel laureate Richard Feynman said it best: “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”

Testing theories with data is how theories are validated. Yet the need to “‘kick the tires’ on a theory is often overlooked when the media assesses extreme weather.

A recent CBC News story headline declared: “Yes, we’re getting more extreme rainfall, and it’s due to climate change, study confirms.”

According to the CBC, which carried the report on its flagship news show, “Warmer temperatures due to climate change lead to wetter air, and we’ve seen more extreme rainfall and flooding across North America. But is there really evidence that the two are related? Yes, there is.”

Well, no there isn’t. The story was based on an Environment Canada study, Human influence has intensified extreme precipitation in North America. Here’s what the CBC report missed:

* The Environment Canada study presented theoretical projections from models that the data did not consistently validate. In some regions, the models predicted changes and trends quite contrary to those reported and also contrary to measured data.

* It missed the big picture. Watersheds are complex and precipitation is only one-factor affecting flood risk — warmer temperatures mean mitigating factors like less runoff from snowmelt. The study referenced that fact, but not the CBC story.

The CBC’s French service, Radio-Canada (R-C) coverage also linked the Environment Canada study to “sudden intense downpours,” flash flooding, and sewer geysers.

It also neglected data contradicting model results, and limitations of the models in projecting such extreme events.

CBC and R-C coverage has been a problem in the past. The R-C Ombudsman found that a reported increase in severe “100-year” storms was not supported by data and required correction.

The CBC Ombudsman encouraged journalists to be “clearer with their choice of tenses” when separating past, present, and future weather phenomena.

Yet CBC continues to report on urban flooding with statistics saying rainfall is now more frequent when those statistics are not observed in measured data at all but are rather from a numerical simulation model projecting the future.

There is an ongoing tendency to confuse models and actual data.

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, the author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, suggested we fall victim to cognitive biases by Thinking Fast, thus moving us away from the rational thought of Thinking Slow.

For example, a “substitution bias” causes us to reject a computationally complex judgment for an easily understood one.

It may be easier to point to neat model results as “proof,” particularly when these results confirm our expectation than to wade through noisy, conflicting observational data. We cannot argue that all floods are caused by climate change.

Fast reporting also missed key study details in the rainfall story, particularly key limitations.

The study itself says, “Many of the physical processes that produce extreme rainfall occur at spatial scales smaller than those that can be reliably simulated by available models. Local-scale events are not well captured.”

It also stated model results may diverge from observations in the west and central west — observations show decreases in extreme precipitation while all three models show increases.

In some regions, it turns out all models are “wrong”!

Are we merely being difficult here? If one- to five-day precipitation is projected to increase, does that not imply that there will be more runoff and flooding in large rural watersheds? Not necessarily.

Even if precipitation increases, warmer weather might mean less snow, and thus less snowmelt.

Such mitigating factors are among the reasons the official attribution study for Alberta’s 2013 flood stated categorically that “no anthropogenic influence can be detected for one-day and three-day surface runoff.”

A broader analysis of major floods across North America and Europe using observational data found “the number of significant trends in major-flood occurrence across North America and Europe was approximately the number expected due to chance alone.”

Checking theories with data shows that there is yet no change in significant floods.

What if we actually look more directly at local data?

For example, how about using rain data to check theoretical models? Data for 651 weather stations in Environment Canada’s Engineering Climate Datasets show that a mere 4.9 percent of annual maximum one-day rainfalls have to date shown a statistically significant increase.

And what about those shorter (two hours or less), sudden intense downpours? For this large data set, that rainfall increased in only just over four percent of the cases.

These small increases, and their flip side (statistically significant decreases), are relatively few and can be explained by chance. So the evidence is lacking on changes in the particular rain events linked to urban flooding.

All of us, including the media, must embrace the reality that weather and infrastructure systems are complex with no simple answers.

Reporting accurately and fairly on complex phenomena means not glossing over model uncertainties or omitting conflicting data.

In promoting action on flooding, certainly a crucial priority, one CBC interviewee stated that “time is not a luxury.” Given the gaps in reporting, let’s hope there’s time for some slow thinking about floods before we rush into fast decisions.


Incredible pictures from space show Australia 'turning green' thanks to record rainfall after years of crippling drought

We were told that the drought was caused by global warming, so are we now having global cooling?

Amazing pictures taken from space show south-eastern Australia's incredible transformation thanks to record rainfall after years of severe drought.

NASA's Earth Observatory took the natural-colour images two years apart, in May of 2018 and again in June 2020. 

The 2018 photo shows land ravaged by record heatwaves - reaching 49.9C in some areas that year - and the lowest rainfall in almost a century. 

In the most recent image, large swathes of green can be seen spreading across Victoria and New South Wales. 

According to the Bureau of Meteorology average to above average rainfall from January to May this year led to soil moisture recovery in much of the area shown in the pictures.

Meanwhile, some rainfall records were broken in Victoria during the same time period.

Melbourne received around 400mm of rain from January to April, almost eight times more than the same time period in 2019, and the wettest since 1924.

New South Wales and the Murray–Darling Basin also received its first average rainfall since 2016 in April and May of this year. 

In addition, the BoM predicts the winter will be wetter than average for western New South Wales and parts of South Australia.

The forecasts also indicate a wetter than average period between August and October for much of eastern Australia. 

The pictures were taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA's Aqua satellite.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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